Brian L. Zavin, Assistant Public Defender (Paul B. DeWolfe, Public Defender, Baltimore, MD), on brief, for Petitioner.
Susannah E. Prucka, Asst. Atty. Gen. (Douglas F. Gansler, Attorney General of Maryland, Baltimore, MD), on brief, for Respondent.
Argued before BARBERA, C.J., HARRELL, GREENE, ADKINS, McDONALD, WATTS, and LAWRENCE F. RODOWSKY (Retired, Specially Assigned), JJ.
[436 Md. 656] This case involves the review of a sentencing judge's imposition of a 25 year mandatory, enhanced sentence for a series of drug convictions pursuant to Maryland's subsequent offender statute, Md.Code (2002), § 5-608(c) of the Criminal Law Article (hereinafter § 5-608(c)). Petitioner alleges that the sentence imposed is an illegal sentence under Maryland Rule 4-345(a). We shall hold that Petitioner's challenge to the enhanced sentence is not properly before this Court, and therefore, we affirm the judgment of the intermediate appellate court. Further, even if we were to determine that the issue was preserved, we would not invalidate the sentence imposed on the grounds alleged.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
After a three day jury trial, Petitioner Tyrone Bryant (" Bryant" or " Petitioner" ) was convicted of distribution of [436 Md. 657] cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Pursuant to § 5-608(c), the State filed a notice of intent to seek a mandatory, enhanced sentence of 25 years without the possibility of parole based on Petitioner's alleged prior drug convictions. In general, the statute requires the defendant to have served at least one term of confinement of at least 180 days and to have two separate qualifying prior convictions. At sentencing, in order to prove the qualifying prior convictions, the State submitted certified copies of docket entries involving two separate cases. The first docket entry, submitted as exhibit one, contained the information that on October 20, 1995, Tyrone L. Bryant, date of birth April 23, 1971, was sentenced in Baltimore City Case No. 295243003, to three years for possession with intent to distribute heroin with credit for time served accounting from June 29, 1995. The State Identification number (" SID number" )  for this defendant was 000992305. The second docket entry, submitted as exhibit two, indicated that on July 13, 2001, Tyrone Bryant, date of birth April 23, 1971, was sentenced to ten years in Baltimore City Case No. 200271002, for possession with intent to distribute heroin with credit for time served accounting from October 9, 2000. The SID number for this defendant was also 000992305. Correctional Case Management Specialist Bibika Cash from Patuxent Institution, after review of the file for an inmate with DOC ID number 301-637, testified that the file contained a photograph of a man
named Tyrone Bryant with [436 Md. 658] the date of birth of November 22, 1969, described as a black male with brown eyes. The file further indicated that Tyrone Bryant was incarcerated in Case No. 200271002 from October 9, 2000 to September 12, 2007.
Next, Agnes Campbell, a fingerprint technician with the Baltimore City Police Department, testified in regards to two fingerprint cards, which were also offered into evidence. Campbell testified that the two fingerprint cards contained prints from Tyrone Bryant who was " locked up" on June 29, 1995 and again on November 30, 2000. The State then asked the witness to take Petitioner's fingerprints and compare them to the fingerprint cards connected to the two prior convictions. The sentencing judge stated that these steps were unnecessary to prove the prior offenses, and when the judge asked defense counsel if he was arguing that the convictions were not Petitioner's, counsel stated that he " can't say that [the offenses are not Mr. Bryant's] right now." The court then denied defense counsel's motion to strike Ms. Campbell's testimony on the grounds that she was not an expert. The court pointed out, however, that Ms. Campbell's testimony would not " play a role" in the sentencing determination. Following this colloquy, the sentencing judge stated: " All right[,] so having review[ed] the State's exhibits in this case I am satisfied that the qualifications under Criminal Law [§ 568(c) ] have been met. That Mr. Bryant has been convicted twice previously under the requisite statute and he was incarcerated at least one term of confinement was [sic] longer than 180 days in a correctional institution." The sentencing judge then imposed a mandatory, enhanced sentence of 25 years without the possibility of parole for each offense, to be served concurrently.
Petitioner noted a timely appeal. The Court of Special Appeals, in an unreported opinion, affirmed the judgment in part, holding that the trial court erred in imposing two— albeit concurrent— subsequent offender sentences, but affirmed the imposition of one of the subsequent offender sentences. This Court granted certiorari, Bryant v. State, 431 Md. 444, 66 A.3d 47 (2013), to answer the following questions:
[436 Md. 659] (1) Is a claim that the State failed to present sufficient evidence for the imposition of a subsequent offender sentence reviewable on appeal as a challenge to an illegal sentence, or, in the alternative, the judgment of the trial court under Rule 8-131(c)?
(2) Did the trial court err in imposing an enhanced sentence of 25 years without parole where the State failed to prove that the predicate convictions belonged to Petitioner?
The State's principal contention is that Petitioner has waived any challenge to the imposition of his sentence because he failed to object during the sentencing proceeding. Petitioner urges this Court to review his enhanced sentence, despite no objection below, as an illegal sentence pursuant to Md. Rule 4-345(a), or, in the alternative, pursuant to the Court's scope of review under Md. Rule 8-131(c). Before turning to each of Petitioner's arguments and proffered grounds for this Court's review, we address the procedural rules regarding preservation of issues generally.
Md. Rule 8-131(a) provides that appellate courts ordinarily will not decide an
issue not raised in or decided by the trial court. In other words, the appellate courts will only address issues that are properly preserved for review, and issues that are not preserved are deemed to be waived. The purpose behind preservation and waiver principles is well established:
The purpose of Md. Rule 8-131(a) is to ensure fairness for all parties in a case and to promote the orderly administration of law. Fairness and the orderly administration of justice is advanced by requiring counsel to bring the position of their client to the attention of the lower court at the trial so that the trial court can pass upon, and possibly correct any errors in the proceedings. For those reasons, [436 Md. 660]Md. Rule 8-131(a) requires an appellant who desires to contest a court's ruling or other error on appeal to have made a timely objection at trial. The failure to do so bars the appellant from obtaining review of the claimed error, as a matter of right.
Robinson v. State,
410 Md. 91
976 A.2d 1072
Additionally, Rule 4-323(c), applicable to rulings and orders other than evidentiary rulings, provides that an objection must be made " at the time the ruling or order is made or sought" in order to be preserved for appellate review. See Md. Rule 4-323(c). " If a party has no opportunity to object to a ruling or order when it is made, the absence of an objection at that time does not constitute a waiver.... [but] if there is an opportunity to object to an order or ruling when made, the failure to do so (and to inform the ...